Blogging vs. Vlogging (and if you like to dance you might try clogging)

If the blogging era’s subtext was “Listen to me!” then the vlogging era’s is “Look at me when I’m speaking to you!”

Hey. Did I say this is a bad thing?

Lately, I’ve been playing with the idea of starting a vlog on my YouTube channel and finally giving up the ghost that this or any blog will never see the glory days ever again. Who comes here, really? I get a few hits from my update posts in Facebook, but the largest percentage come in from people harvesting images and who have no intention to stop and read what I spend so much time writing. No one checks in to say hi anymore. No, I’m afraid the short-lived phenomenon that was blogging is behind us, friends.

I was really excited when blogging came around, because people were actually reading—and writing!—again. Writing is my thing so blogging not only gave me an instant platform, it also honed my writing skills. Just the act of writing that entry every night taught me a lot of discipline. It also helped me find my writer’s voice. Mostly though, I felt there was hope for some degree of literacy in this country, but then vlogging showed up.

I’m not saying vloggers aren’t literate, because some of those I follow are as intelligent as hell. But it’s much easier to watch a video than it is to read a blog. Sure, it’s passive, but let’s face it, it’s fun and it demands nothing except to, well, sit there, but while vlogs are easier for the viewer, they’re much harder for the one who’s actually making them.

Like blogging, you have to decide on a topic, research it and write about it. There’s the set design, equipment, props that might be needed, camera angles, and then there’s the vlogger’s physical appearance. Let’s face it, one of the boons of blogging is that you could do it in your pajamas, underwear, naked even. With vlogging you have to decide what to wear and then look presentable. For a woman there’s hair and makeup, if that’s her thing. There’s the attitude. “Hi!” “Good Morning!” even if that’s not how you actually feel. Then there’s the recording with numerous takes, graphic and audio inserts, and last but not least, all the editing. All of this requires skills in equipment and content construction, not to mention on-camera skills. And that requires confidence and some degree of acting talent. Finally, there’s marketing and promo, and then growing a thick skin.

Good vloggers need to be commended, but more times than not they’re given negative comments from trolls whose sole intent is to leave their mental feces in a crap trail as they hop from video to video. Some vloggers confront these cowards with witty comeback videos in which they read the comments aloud and make snarky remarks. Others filter out the negative comments by setting them to be approved before releasing them. These tactics aren’t new. We bloggers learned to handle our trolls in exactly the same ways. I think I now have about 75% of the thick skin I’d need were I to start vlogging.

All of this is a whole lot more work than writing a blog over one’s morning coffee or, in my case, late at night before going to bed. Sure, there’s editing the text and collecting images, but that doesn’t take as much preparation before hitting the “Publish” button.

When I look back I realize I started vlogging back in 1986 when I first got my hands on a video camera. You know, the kind that required you carry that huge battery pack around? One night I made myself a Banquet Hungry Man TV chicken dinner, turned on the camera and proceeded to talk to my friends, who I knew would enjoy such silliness. I thought of making more, of making it a regular thing, but the camera was only borrowed and I had to give it back the next day. But I was younger, more energetic, and better looking back then. I had more confidence. Hey, I’ve been through some crap since then.

I’ve always been a ham when cameras are around, but that’s cooled way down. Now I avoid them like the plague. Can I get over that enough to actually sit and talk into a camera for 10 minutes? This also brings up the fact that I have a slight speech impediment. It’s nothing you notice in normal conversation, but on camera it might be more noticeable. Should I even care? Should I just put myself out there, stammering, sagging, and saying stupid shit about…what? I haven’t even come up with an idea about what my vlog content would be. You can’t just get up there without a plan.

I may make a couple of scratch videos that I can study and learn from and then delete. This will most likely mean several weeks—maybe even months—of practice and developing. But do I have time for that? In a lot of ways, keeping a vlog for just two weeks is like making an album. If one video takes as much work as one song does, I could have my album—even if I farted around a bit—completed in less than a month. In the time it would take for me to work myself up to vlogging and then actually do it, I could make two albums!

My conclusion then is that I’d better finish this damned album before I start thinking about a vlog.

In the meantime, here are some great ones that I follow (images contain links):

ANSWERS WITH JOE
Vlogger’s Name: Joe Scott
Content: “Get interesting, amazing, funny, mind-shifting, eye-opening, informative answers. Every Monday.”
My Comments: Joe covers a lot of quantum science, but he sometimes delves into politics, religion, philosophy, and his everyday life in Texas, from house training his Pug to making the (im)perfect Old Fashioned. Because of his background in film making, acting and comedy, his videos are always entertaining, candid, and, if intended to be, funny.
Suggested Video: How to Meet George Lucas (Almost)

WINE MOM
Vlogger’s Name: Hannah Williams
Content: “Wine enthusiast who has become famous for her work with BuzzFeed. She is known for dishing out parenting advice over a glass of wine in BuzzFeed’s “Wine Mom” series of YouTube videos.”
My Comments: Don’t let the blurb fool you. Hannah is flat-out funny, and over more subjects than just parenting. My suggestion is to skip the BuzzFeed page (linked above) and just look her up on YouTube.
Suggested Video: The Worst People to Drink Wine With

GUITAR GURU (Lynch Lynks)
Vlogger’s Name: Jay Parmar
Content: “Jay Parmar is a professional Guitarist/Songwriter/Producer/Guitar builder. His music is immersed in feel, emotion and depth and his guitar playing is infused with eastern influence which he utilised to create tangible sonic soundscapes that are emotive and thought provoking.”
My Comments: Jay is Britain’s best kept secret, but he’s getting out there with his tutorials as well as his videos on inspiration and where creativity comes from. His love of life, his gentleness, and his humor are infectious. Oh, and did I say? This man can really, really play!
Suggested Video: Inspiration – Picture of Success, Flow, Karma, and Books

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My Recipe For a Great Music Session

Every musician I know has their own recipe for a successful session whether that’s songwriting, recording, or rehearsing. I thought I’d share mine with you.

Have Something in Mind That You Want to Accomplish.

This sounds obvious, right? But how many times have I sat down to work only to be frustrated by not knowing what I actually wanted to do? I’m not talking about those times when I feel like playing to entertain or soothe myself, I mean when I want—or need—to get to work. Sometimes I’m lucky. I’ll be sitting there strumming or picking some vacant little rhythm or pattern and an idea for a song will strike, but usually it doesn’t work that way for me.

I keep extensive checklists and notes in Excel because I learned long ago that scraps of paper and paper bar napkins can get lost, saturated with wine stains, or look like ancient hieroglyphics the next day. Sure, sometimes an idea hits me when I’m away from home, so I’ll make a note to myself on my phone’s Voice Memos app or scribble out a note on a napkin or the back of a grocery receipt. This is fine for those unbidden light bulb moments, but not for the long haul. On those occasions when I must use the app or the handwritten note, I transcribe my ideas into Notepad as soon as I can and save them in a folder called, “Song Ideas.”

Anyway, when you want to work, make sure you know what it is you want to work on, and have all your notes and ideas where you can access them.

Get Your Shit Together.

Look, not all of us can afford, or have the room, to create a dedicated music workspace like in this photo. Most of the time I work in my bedroom sitting on a four-legged stool with the bed serving as my desk. You have to use what you have, but wherever you work, make sure everything you need is handy and right in front of you. Instruments, picks, capo, tuner, lyric and chord sheets, charts, laptop, DAW, mics, gear, whatever. If you have to get up to hunt down something you need, the interruption can ruin all your intents. And if you can, have a place to work where you know you won’t be interrupted. Put your phone on silent and leave it in the other room. If you use your laptop as a music tool like I do, turn off the sounds and put it on airplane mode. The idea here is to surrender yourself to the music and only the music. She’s a jealous mistress so if you want a good session don’t take her for granted. And if you can’t afford a dedicated music space just remember back when you sat on your bed writing music all those years ago. Grow where you’re planted.

How About a Nice Cup of Tea?

About an hour before I set to work I brew myself a large cup of lemon and ginger tea (I get the Twinings tea bags) with a little honey. Then I sit back, go over my notes and relax to get myself out of the “normal” of the day. Sometimes I’ll meditate for 15 minutes after the tea if I find I’m having a hard time letting go of things that want to keep me distracted. No TV, no music, no phone, no internet. Just a little quiet time. This also is the time that I begin to adopt a take charge attitude. This is my music, my creativity, my outcome. I’m not here to please others or to conform to expectations set by the business, the charts, or even family and friends. This is about music and I strive to become a channel for the mystery and magic to flow through. Do NOT drink iced drinks, dairy products, or orange juice right before singing. These create all kinds of unwanted problems like tight vocal cords, phlegm, and gas, and who needs that?

Adopt a Tude.

No!
Yes!

A positive, commanding attitude isn’t just in the mind you know. It starts with the physical. Sit up straight, pull back those shoulders and hold your head up. Your body is like a stand up bass. Can you imagine what kind of sound that instrument would make if its neck was bent forward, its headstock facing down, and its body turned in on itself? Yeah. None! Help out your vocal cords by straightening your neck. Holding your head up opens up the acoustics of that mouth of yours, and sitting up straight and squaring your shoulders creates resonance, breath control, and support of your diaphragm. Your body is a musical instrument so learn to play it correctly.

Everyone’s different. After all, it’s called in-di-vid-u-al-i-ty for a reason and what works for one person may not work for another. This is my method. Hope it helps a little!

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What It All Means

I first encountered Bob Dylan in 1964 when I was asked to perform Blowin’ In The Wind at an Elks dinner in Ballard, California. I was a tender 12 at the time and I’d actually been asked to perform two songs that night. The other was If I Had A Hammer. I’d heard that song the year before on the popular TV show, Hootenanny! but I’d never heard Blowin’. I loved that show. I’d watched Sing Along With Mitch and played albums by Joe and Eddie, the Kingston TrioOdetta and many others since I was a kid so when Hootenanny! aired, I was hooked. It was in fact the popular single, Walk Right In by the Rooftop Singers that fired my obsession with the 12-string guitar so I guess you can say I’m a folkie from way back.

Someone pointed me to Bob Dylan so that I could learn Blowin’ In The Wind for that gig, but I think I learned it from the cover by Peter, Paul & Mary. I liked the song. I thought it was pretty, but it was the lyrics that grabbed me. It sounded like an anthem. It was saying something important, a message I’d heard many times before, but this time it was delivered in a way that was like a bullet in the brain. I had to find the original recording.

When I brought home The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan and tore off the cellophane wrapping, I had no idea my life was about to change and that it would continue to change and evolve for the entire time I’d walk this planet. I think I’d been prepared, though. I think all of those folksingers before had been leading me up that path, some gently—the Kingston Trio, for instance—and some not so gently, like Odetta. On that afternoon Dylan became a lifelong mentor. Oh, he doesn’t know that. He doesn’t even know I exist, but his work affected me like it has affected so many other songwriters. It’s safe to say I don’t where the hell I’d be musically if he hadn’t happened. I don’t know where music would be.

This Photoshopped image, taken from Dylan’s 1965 Subterranean Homesick Blues video, has always pissed me off. How many people have I spoken to about Dylan whose first reaction was, “He can’t sing”? There are a lot of popular artists—always have been—who can’t sing. Most popular music through the years hasn’t been moored to an ability to croon like Sinatra or Caruso so why have these people assigned Dylan as their poster child?

Something else threatens them. It’s not that he can’t sing, it’s that they don’t understand what he’s singing about and why he sings like he does, and they don’t want to investigate, even passively, by simply listening. Taking time to understand anything is nothing but work for lazy thinkers. When they run into something they don’t get any deeper than the surface level, instead of exploring it, they attack it. They mock and ridicule because it’s easy. At a very young age I learned that when someone made fun of something or someone, they were only revealing their lack of curiosity. And if intelligence is anything, it’s curiosity. If they sat down, turned off their phones and listened to Dylan they’d discover he was performing rap back when their grandparents were dancing to the music of Motown, Surf, and the British Invasion.

This being said, I already know that many of you won’t take the time to listen to the video below. That’s ok. I’m not trying to make converts, I’m sharing something with the curious, the active thinkers, the people who like to understand things. Even those of you who stay might be tempted to stop listening when Dylan starts talking about Moby Dick, but I urge to you hang in there. It’s a trip worth taking and in true Dylan fashion, his voice with its unique rhythms and meters becomes almost hypnotic. Please, please, turn off the TV, silence your phone and get rid of possible distractions. This is not background, this is not passive listening. You will have to listen and think.

P.S. The title of this post will mean nothing to you unless you listen to the video.

Many thanks to Wade Johnson and Pat Flynn for introducing me to this.

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